Skip to main content

Sheldon Keefe firing latest change in NHL coaching merry-go-round past 12 months

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Toronto Maple Leafs
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It used to be you needed a program to know the players. These days in the NHL, you need a program to identify the head coaches.

The League’s coaching carousel continues to spin faster and faster, and the latest to be thrown off is Sheldon Keefe, fired on Thursday by the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was hardly a surprise after the Maple Leafs were eliminated in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Boston Bruins and curiously comes before a two-year contract extension kicks in.

“I didn’t get it done in the playoffs,” Keefe said during a video posted on social media a couple of hours after the announcement. “I didn’t help push our team over the line and deliver, I accept responsibility for that. No excuses. That’s the job, I didn’t get it done, it’s the reality of the business and I accept it.”

Under Keefe, who was hired Nov. 20, 2019 to replace Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs posted a 212-97-40 regular-season record. But the quest to end their Stanley Cup drought that dates back to 1967 came nowhere close to fruition. Toronto won only one of six playoff rounds under Keefe.

The coaching turnover the past year has been immense. Since the end of the 2022-23 season, 17 coaches have been fired, seven during the regular season, plus Mike Babcock was forced to resign on the eve of the 2023-24 season — only 10 weeks after being hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets — and another, Rick Bowness, retired last week after a couple of seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.

Keep in mind, there are 32 NHL teams. So that’s 56 percent of the League’s teams that have, or are, switching coaches.

Right now, there are five teams with a vacancy to fill. Not counted in that number: the Los Angeles Kings have yet to announce whether Jim Hiller — hired on an interim basis when Todd McLellan was fired in February — will be promoted.

“It’s insanity,” Dallas Stars coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday before discussing his team’s playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche. “We coach in an age where everyone talks about the modern athlete, building relationships in order to coach them. How do you do that with that kind of turnover? It’s like going on a date and getting married and divorced before the appetizers show up. I don’t get it, but that’s the world we live in.’’

After the end of the 2021-22 season, there were nine coaches fired, with three of those replacements already no longer in that position, plus there was one in-season change during the 2022-23 campaign when Rick Tocchet took the helm of the Vancouver Canucks.

Related: 2024 NHL Mock Draft 2.0: Who follows Macklin Celebrini after Sharks win lottery?

NHL coaching changes past 12 months

NHL: St. Louis Blues at New Jersey Devils
Travis Green was named interim coach of the New Jersey Devils on March 4 and hired as Ottawa Senators coach on May 7. — Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at each of the NHL coaching changes in the past 12 months:

May 30, 2023: Washington Capitals hire Spencer Carbery to replace Peter Laviolette

May 31, 2023: Nashville Predators hire Andrew Brunette to replace John Hynes

June 5, 2023: Anaheim Ducks hire Greg Cronin to replace Dallas Eakins

June 12, 2023: Calgary Flames hire Ryan Huska to replace Darryl Sutter

June 13, 2023: New York Rangers hire Peter Laviolette to replace Gerard Gallant

July 1, 2023: Columbus Blue Jackets hire Mike Babcock to replace Brad Larsen

Sept. 17, 2023: Columbus Blue Jackets hire Pascal Vincent after Mike Babcock resigns

Nov. 12, 2023: Edmonton Oilers hire Kris Knoblauch to replace Jay Woodcroft

Nov. 27, 2023: Minnesota Wild hire John Hynes to replace Dean Evason

Dec. 12, 2023: St. Louis Blues hire Drew Bannister to replace Craig Berube

Dec. 18, 2023: Ottawa Senators hire Jacques Martin on an interim basis to replace D.J. Smith

Jan. 20, 2024: New York Islanders hire Patrick Roy to replace Lane Lambert

Feb. 2, 2024: Los Angeles Kings hire Jim Hiller on an interim basis to replace Todd McLellan

March 4, 2024: New Jersey Devils fire Lindy Ruff and hire Travis Green on an interim basis. Green left the organization at the end of the season: Position is currently vacant

April 22, 2024: Buffalo Sabres hire Lindy Ruff to replace Don Granato

April 24, 2024: San Jose Sharks fire David Quinn: Position currently vacant

April 29, 2024: Seattle Kraken fire Dave Hakstol: Position currently vacant

May 6, 2024: Rick Bowness retires from Winnipeg Jets: Position currently vacant

May 7, 2024: Ottawa Senators hire Travis Green to replace interim coach Jacques Martin

May 9, 2024: Toronto Maple Leafs fire Sheldon Keefe: Position currently vacant

Randy Sportak covers the NHL for Field Level Media. It wasn’t long after learning to walk that he was wearing skates in northern British Columbia. Since then, hockey has been a huge part of his world, including 15 years on the NHL beat with the Calgary Sun.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: